The language controversy will not go away.
The government must recognize that the new curriculum programme, which imposes seven languages on the people of Zambia is totally unacceptable, undemocratic, and a very clear abuse of authority.
The arbitrary choice of seven languages, out of the 73 commonly used will bring about unnecessary tension and in some cases division anchored on ancient adversaries, which have since been laid to rest.
The decision has political implications which will ultimately endanger our very carefully crafted one Zambia one nation.
It was definitely disheartening to hear vice president Guy Scott and indeed Minister of Education, Dr. John Phiri, evade the issue in parliament yesterday when very clear and pointed questions were raised by M.P.s
The situation on the ground is that some tribes such as the Lamba, feel marginalized by the decision which will see their children taught in a foreign language when they would rather have Lamba used as the local medium.
Vernacular as a subject has been accepted across the country mainly because English as a mode of communication provided a basis for unity and understanding.
Language it must be understood is not only a conveyor of meaning it is to a greater extent the embodiment of values and inculturation. Therefore any attempt to denigrate or underrate any tribe will be resisted because it interferes with the fundamental aspiration of being.
That is why the Lamba chiefs feel slighted that their language which is distinct is being superceded by bemba. The two may be similar but are different and a very significant nuances of political import. If the government intends to force down curricula it will be met with resistance which resistance will at some point become political and as usual the traditional chiefs will be accused of undermining government.
The reality on the other hand is that every tribe and language in this country is important and at any attempt to reduce the 72 tribes into seven will be considered to be cultural hegemony.
It would have been advisable and most appropriate for the technicians championing this policy to consult as widely as possible in order to secure consensus. If this had been done the result would have included other linguistic groups that stand out.
For example the Tumbuka language is not exactly Chewa and neither is Lozi the language spoken in Kaoma. An imposition of either will naturally be resisted.
Instead of fomenting tribal misunderstanding and mistrust it is important that government thinks through this policy and takes heed from the input of our own church leaders, the catholic bishops of Zambia who have ably guided that this policy should not be implemented as it violates human rights.
As we have said before, might is not always right. The government may wish to force down the policy but ultimately its success or failure will depend on how the people on the ground accept it.
Already the people in Chavuma feel offended, very offended at that, for an organization to advertise a job position in the area, requiring that applicants should be competent in Bemba when this is not the language spoken there.
Such are the sensitivities which government must deal with.